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Protein family review

The WASP and WAVE family proteins

Shusaku Kurisu and Tadaomi Takenawa*

Author Affiliations

Division of Lipid Biochemistry, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, 7-5-1 Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0017, Japan

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Genome Biology 2009, 10:226  doi:10.1186/gb-2009-10-6-226

Published: 15 June 2009

Abstract

All eukaryotic cells need to reorganize their actin cytoskeleton to change shape, divide, move, and take up nutrients for survival. The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) and WASP-family verprolin-homologous protein (WAVE) family proteins are fundamental actin-cytoskeleton reorganizers found throughout the eukaryotes. The conserved function across species is to receive upstream signals from Rho-family small GTPases and send them to activate the Arp2/3 complex, leading to rapid actin polymerization, which is critical for cellular processes such as endocytosis and cell motility. Molecular and cell biological studies have identified a wide array of regulatory molecules that bind to the WASP and WAVE proteins and give them diversified roles in distinct cellular locations. Genetic studies using model organisms have also improved our understanding of how the WASP- and WAVE-family proteins act to shape complex tissue architectures. Current efforts are focusing on integrating these pieces of molecular information to draw a unified picture of how the actin cytoskeleton in a single cell works dynamically to build multicellular organization.